Mysterious Brain Network May Cause Multiple Psychiatric Disorders


| LAST UPDATE 02/03/2023

By Daria Appleby
Brain Network Psychiatric Disorders
FRED TANNEAU / Contributor via Getty Images

By uncovering a neural network connecting the symptoms of various psychiatric disorders, scientists have made an astonishing discovery that could revolutionize our understanding and treatment of mental health issues. Disruptions in this shared brain circuitry may be responsible for many complex diagnoses. Here's what they found.

Dr. Joseph Taylor, clinical director at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Brain Circuit Therapeutics in Boston, recently revealed a groundbreaking discovery: He told LiveScience, "Half of the people we treat meet criteria for more than one disorder." The published results in the 2023 released journal, Nature Human Behaviour, support the idea that these comorbid conditions may be linked by common neurobiological underpinnings. Taylor expressed, "we suspect that other psychiatric disorders may also be linked to the same network." Hence, collectively, these disorders share an underlying circuitry. These researchers have discovered this new neural circuit that may spark further insights into the connection between mental illnesses and specific cognitive functions. While some clusters of neurons within this circuit are associated with psychiatric disorders, others play an essential role in selective attention, sensory processing, and other facets of cognition. Exploring how these elements work together could improve our understanding of why particular combinations of conditions tend to occur simultaneously.

Brain Study Psychiatric Disorders
Wojtek Laski / Contributor via Getty Images
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Scientists have presented evidence proposing that understanding mental health issues requires a new approach, one which looks at the brain's circuitry as opposed to individual regions. According to Deanna Barch of Washington University in St. Louis - an expert who was not involved with the study, "these data point to the need to consider this shared neurobiology at the circuit level rather than at the level of the individual brain region." This suggests an expansive view of mental illness and necessitates examining how different parts of our brains communicate via wiring rather than focusing on discrete components alone. An international team of researchers, in a recent study, has discovered an unexpected link between six psychiatric disorders - namely autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, among others. After pinpointing brain regions that had shrunken due to these conditions, the research revealed such varying patterns attributed to each one. However, it was found all were linked by a tangle of neural cables within the connectome – leading them closer than ever to understanding what might be driving mental health issues on this scale.

Researchers will be more encouraged to use TMS, a medical tool used to treat mental disorders. According to researchers Drs. Taylor and Barch, the device can potentially identify multiple targets that could turn the volume up or down within neural circuits. This way, doctors will identify treatments for many illnesses simultaneously.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below